Monday, August 1, 2011

Interview with Maureen Gill

Name of the book:

January Moon

January Moon is the first book in the “Del Carter Calendar Series.” Its sequel, March Storm, will be released Fall (2011).
Price: ebook $.99; print $14.99

Available at:, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords
Authors Website & Blog:


Maureen Gill has worn many hats but the one she believes most defines her, especially in the way it informs her writing, is her historian's hat. Among other academic awards, Maureen has won four Carnegie-Mellon Foundation awards for outstanding historical research and writing. A former legal and medical researcher, paralegal and college history and philosophy teacher, Maureen uses her grasp of US history and popular culture, as well as her skills for in-depth research and analysis, to write cutting edge contemporary fiction that tackles hot button topics such as female genital mutilation, racism, religious fanaticism, political corruption, animal abuse, human trafficking, mental illness and the vagaries and puzzles of family dynamics. Her debut novel, January Moon, has received outstanding reviews. A native Chicagoan, Maureen is pleased that her writing style has been described as a gale force wind off Lake Michigan. Her style has also been compared to Michael Connolly and Lee Childe. Maureen’s been praised for her biting humor and sardonic wit, as well as for her fast-past drama, unique plot, and unforgettable characters.
Tell me about your book:

January Moon is about two very different men and their fierce struggles to save the women they love from the very real and terrifying monsters who would destroy them.

Del Carter is a young, handsome, well educated Chicago homicide detective who loves music (especially sexy jazz) and Jessica Farrell, a history professor at Loyola University. Del and Jess have a few issues, not the least of which is she swore she’d never marry a cop and he’s haunted by memories of the serial killer he helped capture and who now rots in prison. They have a dog whose name is Wolf and he plays an important part in the story.

Then there’s Fred Wiley; Wiley’s a homicide investigator with the Illinois State Police. Wiley’s a ‘Nam era vet and very eccentric; calling him a crusty sonofabitch would be spot on. But waters run very deep in Wiley and he’s full of surprises – one of which is that he’s been madly in love with the same woman who walked out of his life without any rational explanation over thirty years ago.

Which brings us to that same woman: the beautiful and brilliant, Elnora Ness. Wiley nicknamed her Eliot years earlier and it stuck; now everyone knows her as Eliot Ness. Eliot was Cook County’s first black female prosecutor (a double token) when she signed on with the State’s Attorney’s office right out of law school and now she’s become a legend around the country. Eliot and Wiley had a torrid affair when she was a new prosecutor and he was a young cop but Eliot fled the relationship after Wiley proposed; all she would say was that she would never marry a white man – a statement that infuriated and completely puzzled Wiley.

The story begins when a thirteen year old girl mysteriously dies in Del’s father’s truck while he’s driving from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago. It’s quickly determined the girl’s a runaway from a religious cult that curiously has ties to Jess and her family but when her forensic autopsy reveals she was the victim of female genital mutilation shortly before her death things begin to go from damn bad to very damn bad quickly. January Moon weaves these four people together in a complex web of love and hate, secrets and lies, and human tragedy.

Besides the cops and the remarkable women they love, there’s a whole cast of other memorable characters, including whackos in the cult, good and bad FBI agents, a screwy Mayor of Chicago, several domestic terrorist wannabees, an elegant African model, a white-supremacist assassin working for a radical fringe Christian church, and most of all one of the creepiest female villains in literature. One reviewer called her a “living, breathing hate machine.”

I can’t give any more spoilers except to say every thread is tied together and there are no loose ends at the end of the book – although it’s clear the stage has been set for a sequel.

What will readers like about your book?

There’s something in January Moon for everyone, except maybe for those looking for vampires. There’s not a single vampire in January Moon. Oh, and racists and rednecks and right wing extremists: they’re not going to like January Moon.

More seriously, I’ve been astonished to see how people respond differently to various parts of the story, even the whole book. Men think January Moon is a fast-paced cop story but women see it as a powerful love story. A priest pointed out themes of redemption and spiritual rebirth. Some women adore Del, others are crazy in love with Wiley; men relate to the fathers, the politics, and the scene where the cops, the feds and even an assassin all descend on the cult and all hell breaks loose. But you know what? The women loved that scene also; some women have told me they were literally screaming out loud when they thought Wolf was dying.

Lately I’ve been hearing from a lot of book clubs. January Moon’s a great choice for book clubs because it’s packed with richly nuanced characters (both good and very evil), has an incredible plot and a variety of themes. It’s the kind of book you can really sink your teeth into and pull apart and discuss.

I think readers like the book because it’s uniquely written and tells a fascinating extremely contemporary story that’s not been overdone. It’s also fast-paced, the dialogue and characters are very believable, and it has a nice balance of suspense, humor and romance.

When did you realize that you were a serious writer?

I’ve never written anything I wasn’t serious about except maybe a grocery list. I don’t care if it’s only email -- I try to write it well and make it appealing to read. I view everything I write as an exercise in good writing. When I was in business I was as serious about small memos and routine letters as the largest most detailed project. I worked in a large international law firm and earned a reputation for being able to write with great clarity and I worked with some of the most talented lawyers in the firm to help draft, revise and tweak some very special documents. When I taught college I was just as serious about the syllabi and notes I created for my students as I was about my own scholarly materials for publication. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing well.

Why did you choose this particular genre to write your book in?

I didn’t choose a genre. I just told a story and everyone else is trying to make it fit into a genre. Genre means nothing to me.

What is your writing process?

I’m not sure I understand the question. I don’t think I have a process; I just write.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

I wrote January Moon, Prologue to end, in 12 weeks. During those 12 weeks I wrote every day but four. I found I did my best writing in the very early morning; I’d write from 5 AM to sometimes Noon; 7 hours. Then I’d proof and make corrections, maybe redraft, for several more hours later in the day. Sometimes I’d write 12 or 16 hours straight if I was on a roll but that was rare because when I’m tired I can’t write worth a damn. After I’d written the entire story, beginning to end, I devoted another 16 weeks to editing, polishing, formatting and polishing some more.

OK, so is that a process? Yeah, maybe.

Why did you publish on Kindle and other eReaders?

Ebooks are big; if you want to sell books you go ebook. I also published with CreateSpace so January Moon is also in print.

What kind of advice would you like to share with an aspiring writer who’s looking to publish a book for the first time?

If you want to actually see your book published in your lifetime and you’re a newbie then publish it yourself. The odds of getting an agent are grim and then if you land one, things still aren’t all that wonderful.

I emailed 48 queries and received 5 positive responses and quickly moved into very serious discussions with two agents. The relationships broke down after I was asked to “dumb the book down” and remove some of the controversial content (or what one agent thought was controversial anyway). Things went south after those conversations and I realized I had to control my own product.

I’ve talked to author wannabees who absolutely cannot believe anyone would walk away from an interested agent. Well, I did -- and I’ve never looked back.

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